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Shakespeare and South Africa$
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David Johnson

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198183150

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198183150.001.0001

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The Social Function of Literature: 1800–1850

The Social Function of Literature: 1800–1850

(p.13) 1 The Social Function of Literature: 1800–1850
Shakespeare and South Africa

David Johnson

Oxford University Press

This chapter deals with two related issues associated with the public lectures and literary journals at the Cape in the first half of the nineteenth century. First, it reflects on the origins in South African culture of arguments about literary value, and second, it explores how these arguments prepare the way for the institutionalisation of English literature as a subject in school and college curricula at the Cape Colony. The chapter deals with them as one, abstracting four overlapping positions on the social function of literature implicit in the writings of this period. They are the missionary position, the utilitarian position, the romantic position, and the imperial position. The chapter also suggests how they might relate to current arguments about literature in South Africa.

Keywords:   English literature, Cape Colony, social function, missionary position, utilitarian position, romantic position, imperial position, South Africa, literary value

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